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Doctors urge COVID-19 vaccinations to help prevent long-term health issues

U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Jefferson County health officials report a drop in COVID-19 cases over the past week. The just over 6,200 new cases are a little more than half the previous week. 

The incidence rate is now down to 116.4 new cases per 100,000 residents – still more than four times the threshold to be considered high spread in a county. 

And while around 75% of the county’s population has received at least their first vaccine, health officials say the uptake rate for vaccination has slowed. 

The shots could be what helps protect a person from serious short- and long-term heart complications, however. 

Dr. Kelly McCants is a heart failure specialist with Norton Healthcare. He said early on in the pandemic, doctors knew that those with underlying health conditions – heart issues, diabetes and others – were more likely to get COVID and to have worse outcomes if they did. But having the virus can also lead to more heart issues. McCants said one thing to watch for is potential heart palpitations even in the weeks after COVID. 

"Every person that has a diagnosis of COVID is not going to develop a cardiac issue, but again that risk is clearly there,” he said.

If people feel a shortness of breath beyond a short time, swelling in the lower extremities or racing heart rates, McCants said it may be good to get checked at the hospital. 

Other issues COVID can bring on, although rare, are blood clots and the even rarer permanent heart-muscle damage. 

Dr. Dinesh Kalra is chief of the Division of Cardiology at University of Louisville Health. He said some of this heart strain can come after any respiratory illness. That’s why getting a COVID vaccine can help prevent it in the first place. 

“What I think the public needs to understand is that the risk-benefit ratio still very much favors getting vaccinated and avoiding the infection,” Kalra said.

Aprile Rickert is LPM's Southern Indiana reporter. Email Aprile at arickert@lpm.org.